Category Archives: Startup

Interview with Top Me creators

Top Me was demo’d at DemoCampHamilton15 as ‘Props’ and it garnered a ton of interest from the community – check out the following interview with the creators!


Tell me about yourselves

Julian: Hi! My name is Julian Villella, and I’m the Android developer for Top Me (@TopMeApp). My background is in developing computer graphics software (ray tracing specifically, and GPU optimization). I picked up Android development after Google allured me with their fantastic API and open platform. I’ve had some success on the Google Play Store so far. One of my apps is a few days away from hitting the 150,000 downloads mark (exciting!).

Nino: Hello, my name is Nino and I made the web service and backend for our app. It’s nice to be able to get more involved in the Hamilton software community. There are many talented and successful software developers and entrepreneurs in this city.




What is Top Me?

Julian: Top Me (formally Props for those who were at DemoCamp in February) is an app where the community challenges each other through 12 second videos. We noticed the countless pictures and videos across YouTube, Facebook, Vine, etc. where people would show off something they did/accomplished. There were also quite a few fads that went on like the cinnamon challenge, bread challenge, 24-hour challenge, etc. gathering thousands upon thousands of people to participate. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger, and who doesn’t like to throw down a challenge? The problem until now was that there was no platform dedicated to this. Top Me is our attempt at filling that gap.


Where did you get the idea for Top Me?

Julian: The idea started as creating timed challenges that would be sent to a random person to complete. It eventually turned into Top Me from fixing all the holes in the concept and trashing what we didn’t think worked. At the same time we also realized the importance of a community, social driven platform, and how important it is for these challenges to take off.


How does the app work?

Julian: We tried to take what worked from other apps that people are already used to. The process is simple; you create a challenge (title and description), and optionally record your first video attempt (12 seconds) to start it. Let’s say for example you wanted to do something funny, how many cloves of garlic can you eat in 12 seconds? This challenge will then show up on a list where people can perform their take on it. You can also comment on the videos and prop them (same thing as your “heart” or “like”).




How has it been received so far?

Julian: We’ve gotten a lot of validation from the idea, designs and current beta. In February we got the opportunity to present at Democamp (thanks Kevin!). There’s really nothing more exciting than having people come up to you and express their excitement for something you’ve spend night after night working on. In fact, it’s kept me going even more than coffee!


What’s your plan to grow the Top Me user base?

Julian: We released the beta last week and are in real need for testers. Once we are happy with the app’s stability we want to target it to students at Universities and Colleges. We feel if they like it, it could really take off. The hard part with these social networking apps is getting the ball rolling. With enough support from the students at these schools it will hopefully drive downloads.


What type of challenges are you hoping people will upload?

Nino: Some of the challenges I would love to see in the future are ones that involve friends having to compete together, such as double piggybacks and human pyramids. It would also be interesting for people to show off their skills and talents, or to challenge one another to do Good Samaritan-type things.


Will you monetize Top Me? How do you plan to do this?

Nino: I think these kinds of apps are hard to monetize at the start. It’ll always be free, and we are going to stay away from ads for now. With that said, SnapChat seems to have done fairly well without monetizing in the beginning. Hopefully we will find someone more business savvy to come on board.




Where do you see Top Me going in the future?

Nino: Currently the app is only for Android, going forward it would be awesome to see it on more platforms. I do not own an Android phone, so it would be nice if I were able to use my own app in the future, haha.


Where can readers get Top Me?

Nino: Right now the app is in the Google Play Store. You can find it by searching topme (one word). I’ll also put the link below. Otherwise you can go to The iOS version will eventually be on there too.


How can the community help you make Top Me a bigger success?

Nino: If anyone would like to leave us their thoughts and feedback on the app it would mean a lot. Sharing the app with friends and family would help tremendously too.

Julian: I’ve had some challenges (no pun intended) with the video recording portion of the app. The Android camera has been a pain to work with. The differences in hardware vendor support, using it against the default (landscape, full screen), front and back facing cameras, the state machine media recorder, ffmpeg through the JNI, etc. has been very time consuming. The good news is that it’s working on more and more phones now. Galaxy S3, LG Optimus 4X HD, Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus 4, 5 have been tested and are now functional. We’d really appreciate if a few could try taking a video with the front and back camera and send us the bug report if something goes wrong. It will be a huge help in making this more stable.


Interview with RentHost



Check out the follow interview with Shubham Kansal and Suhel Brar of RentHost!


Tell me about yourself.

At RentHost (@RentHost), we are a team of two – Shubham Kansal who is a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo with a degree in software engineering and Suhel Brar, a former student of McMaster University. As students, engineers, and aspiring entrepreneurs our goal is to find logical and feasible solutions to everyday problems.


What is RentHost?

RentHost is a free online service that allows students to search off-campus housing smartly and efficiently by providing them a beautiful search interface, reviews by past tenants and a set of additional tools to make their search less painful.




What makes RentHost different than other rental search apps?

Currently, students use online classifieds or their university’s off-campus housing site to search for rental houses. Students have to continually check for new listings on these sites as they become available. At RentHost, we allow students to save their search criteria and notify them as houses matching their search criteria become available. They no longer have to repeatedly visit the site to check for new properties. We also provide unbiased reviews left by past tenants to help future tenants make an informed decision.


Where did you get the idea for RentHost?

When I was a student at McMaster, I rented a house with a few of my friends through McMaster’s off-campus housing site. While renting, we used to hear strange noises in the house and had no idea what it was. Upon investigation, it was found that a raccoon was living in the house. If there was a way to get feedback from previous tenants before renting the house, this situation could have easily been avoided. With such personal experiences, we decided to build RentHost to help fellow students find safe and reliable housing in a quick and easy manner.


How can readers use RentHost?

To search for off-campus housing, readers can go to the RentHost Search page and begin searching over 250 properties around McMaster University.

If you have already rented an off-campus house, sign up to post reviews and help out your fellow students.




Where do you see RentHost going in the future?

In future, we see RentHost as the largest one-stop service for all renting needs from finding a reliable and safe property, to contacting landlords, to paying rent to the most important part of it all, writing reviews and making use of them. We are starting at the McMaster University, and our goal is to be able to help students at universities all across Canada.


How can the community help you make RentHost a bigger success?

Community is the largest and the most important thread in making RentHost a bigger success. To begin with, posting reviews and asking your friends to post reviews will create a greater value to the site and to your fellow students looking for a safe and reliable place to rent. In addition, we always welcome your feedback and new ideas to help us serve you better. Please feel free to drop us a line at our Facebook page or tweet us @RentHost.



RentHost Manager:







Finding B2B Clients: 4 Strategies We Use

Getting more clientsAs a B2B sales and marketing agency, we are often asked how VA Partners finds new customers. Here are four tactics we use on an on-going basis to build a funnel of potential clients.

1. Use Inbound Marketing

Using a mix of blogs, white papers, email newsletters, website content, social media and SEO, we have built a great inbound lead generation process at VA Partners. We generate close to 60 inbound leads every month, qualify all our leads and then add them to the sales effort.

2. Be a Leader in the Local Startup Space

VA Partners has been in business since 2006 and since that time we have worked hard to build relationships with many well respected organizations. This has led to monthly speaking opportunities, mentoring opportunities, and leading peer-to-peer sessions. This is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing and consistent pursuit.

3. Network and Attend Events

The team is regularly at startup or small business events through the Toronto and GTA region, including KW, Halton and Hamilton. This has been a great way to meet prospects and potential partners.

4. Look for Sales Triggers on Social Media

Social media is a wonderful tool for growing firms. Every member of our team has a strong presence on social media. One of the great opportunities from a sales effort is finding sales triggers that can then be acted upon quickly. Early this year we signed a new B2B customer and also helped a client close a customer through a conversation that started on Twitter and Linkedin. Both of these opportunities closed in less than a month.

What strategies does your business use to find new clients?

Need help getting started with sales? Download our free Introduction to Startup Sales white paper to learn about researching prospects, using LinkedIn for sales and handling sales objections.

Interview with Josh Brown of Pricecanopy

Pricecanopy is a Hamilton-based startup by Josh Brown. Niche vertical SaaS startups don’t seem to have the sex appeal of ‘trying to be the next WhatsApp’, but they sure seem to work in Canada (and Hamilton too). That’s why I was really curious to interview Josh about what he’s doing with Pricecanopy, check it out below:


Tell me about yourself.

I’m a new grad from Queen’s University and I have been building web applications for about 5 years now. I’m interested in all kinds of software but especially eCommerce applications, ERP/financial software for retail companies and weather forecasting systems.


What is Pricecanopy?

Pricecanopy is an automated repricing service for businesses that sell goods on, or It helps retailers maximize their sales on Amazon through keeping their listing prices competitive.




What is the ‘buy box’, and how does Pricecanopy help users win them?

The buy box is a highlighted rectangle on each Amazon product detail page where most buyers make their purchase. It’s common for multiple Amazon sellers to offer the same product for sale. When that happens, one seller occupies the buy box and the other sellers are buried under the “More buying choices” link or the offer listings page. (There are a few exceptions to this, which I won’t get into here.)

The seller that holds the buy box is chosen automatically by Amazon. That decision has many inputs — including a seller’s feedback score and fulfillment process — but one of the biggest factors that Amazon takes into consideration is price. Typically a seller that’s eligible for the buy box can win it when their price is slightly lower than the nearest buy box-eligible merchant.

This means that prices on Amazon can change very quickly as sellers compete with one another for the buy box spot. Third party merchants use Pricecanopy as a tool to automate their repricing and maximize their exposure to the buy box when it makes sense to do so.


What sorts of competitive intelligence data does Pricecanopy allow users to gather?

Pricecanopy users can keep track of their competitors’ feedback ratings, their competitors’ eligibility for the buy box, their competitors’ ship-from locations, and whether or not the competitor uses Fulfillment by Amazon. They can also see approximately which Amazon sellers compete against them the most.




What other features does Princecanopy give users?

There are no other features yet – that’s about it :)


SaaS seems to be a tech startup business model that works in Hamilton, and in Canada more broadly speaking. How have you found running a SaaS business so far?

I like SaaS because I think it reduces vendor lock-in and encourages startups to focus on customer experience. Clients can try it, use it for as long as they like or cancel if they don’t see the benefits. No long-term commitment is required and I think a lot of buyers expect that now.


How are you finding your customers?

Most of our clients find us through referrals and organic search. As far as I know, Pricecanopy is the only Canadian repricing service out there, so we are sort of specializing in serving retailers on We are also active on various major and obscure social networks and we run the JungleBlog.




What’s next for Pricecanopy?

Well we have a new product for Amazon sellers in the works. I hope it will be out in the next month or two — keep an eye on our site for details!


How can the community help you make Pricecanopy a bigger success?

If you are interested in getting involved or just want to say hello, feel free to send us a message. You can email me at or we’re on Twitter @pricecanopy.

Amazon sellers are welcome to sign up for a free trial on our website, — we’d love to hear any feedback or comments you may have.


Interview with Jim Rudnick of FundHamOnt

Check out the interview below with Jim Rudnick (@JVRudnick), founder of the new FundHamOnt (@FundHamOnt) local crowdfunding platform! He’ll be giving a talk + Q&A about the new service at StartupDrinks this Wednesday March 12th at The Pheasant Plucker too!


jimrudnickWhat is FundHamOnt?

It’s my attempt at trying to help the hundreds of new start-ups that I hear from on a daily basis who have an idea, the passion to try to make it come true….but not the access to seed funding to get any traction. I hear them pitch, I chat with them at DemoCamps, StartUpDrinks, IF events, BizSmartz events in fact almost everywhere I go in the city somebody says “hey, got an idea but where do I find funding?” And now, we have an answer….


Why did you decide to create FundHamOnt?

To help all the entrepreneurs here in our own HamOnt community find a way to ask for the support of their community. To try to validate that “idea” via just such a crowdfunding Campaign which I think is a great way to see if that idea has both the legs and the rationale of our whole community. I believe that no one would ever fund a bad idea…so this helps in many ways!


What is the current state of startup / early seed funding in Hamilton?

As far as I know – other than the traditional friends, family and fools – there is no real funding group for startups at all. Yes, there is our own AngelOne group but they are looking well downstream from a funding viewpoint….in fact there’s few opportunities at all for that seed funding…the first say $10k to get you started…


How important is it that we fix the local early funding gap?

Absolutely important – in fact most likely as I see it, the reason that we even exist is to get our community support offered to our own community entrepreneurs! Without us, where would one go?


What is the first project being funded on FundHamOnt?

We are so proud that our first Campaign is from our own Hamilton literary group, the gritLIT Festival group and we’re so happy to have them too! If you’re like me, you too wouldn’t even know but #HamOnt has some damn fine writers and authors…and this is the group that supports same too! And while it’s a bit outside your question, we’ve turned down now 11 other Campaigns that did not have a “local” POV….we love our city and this is for our city!




Are you worried about ‘competing’ with Indiegogo, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms?

Not in the least. These large non-geo-synched sites have raised hundreds of millions for their own demographic and that’s not at all what we’re about. Instead, we are trying to build our community by offering up our own local entrepreneurs and causes and groups to look for support here….not in San Francisco! We want to raise support here for startups and entrepreneurs who are here…the real strength of being “local!”


What type of projects do you think are going to be popular on FundHamOnt?

I think it will be that there will be a mix of both ’causes’ and ‘startups’ and yes, even ‘politics’ too that will all rise….As long as the Campaign has a local #HamOnt rationale, we’d welcome them….


fundhamtonWhere would you like to see FundHamOnt 5-10 years from now?

Still building our city! With even second generation Campaigns too….that spin off a successful startup we helped fund earlier too!


What else do we need to do locally to improve early stage funding for local businesses? For instance, would a Hamilton-based angel investment group make sense as a next step?

Oh yes it would – but a real early-stage Angel group I’d think… and I’d love to help someone get that community building idea some traction too!


How can the Hamilton community help you make FundHamOnt a bigger success?

Just by dropping by to see what’s new occasionally; by reading the Campaign notices about new ideas looking for support; by listening within your own circle of friends and if you hear of someone who need seed funding, then send them to!


ShowDom partners with The Agency at Mohawk College



March 3, 2014 - ShowDom kicks off its partnership with Mohawk College’s THE AGENCY Program!

THE AGENCY has been created as a new “Living Lab” learning environment operating within the McKeil School of Business at Mohawk College. It offers students enrolled in a variety of marketing communications and business programs the opportunity to work collaboratively on a diverse range of projects and campaigns. These campaigns are for not-for-profit organizations as well as for new start-ups that have approached Mohawk College for assistance.

The first local startup inaugurated into the program is local Hamilton based company ShowDom Inc. Their product is an online map-based event finder.  Their mobile apps and web browser make it fast and easy to discover “things to do” within a local community.

“Our goal is to be a fast and easy solution to the question ‘What’s going on?’” More importantly, we want to provide insight into the entire community of events to encourage people to go out and support local arts and events.”

ShowDom founded in May 2012 and released it’s beta product in March 2013. They currently have 2 co-founders (Graeme Davis, CEO. and Kirk Williams, CTO) as well as two in-house graphic designers (Cody Young and Denise Oomen). The team have been preparing for a March 2014 market launch that includes new browser and app designs among the changes.

“We are thrilled about the opportunity to pair up with Mohawk’s THE AGENCY program,” states Davis. “On the one hand, it provides the students with a very real look into the challenges facing a start-up business in a very modern and aggressive online industry. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to work with teams of students to brainstorm creative and diverse market strategies that will give our company a fighting chance.”

For more information about ShowDom, please visit The Team will post company-related updates on facebook, and they would love if you followed them on twitter You can also download the ShowDom app in the Google and Apple stores!

If you’d like to reach ShowDom directly:

Graeme Davis
Co-founder, CEO


Nix Sensor launches “second batch” crowdfunding campaign

nixsensorNix Sensor (@NixSensor) has launched another crowdfunding effort for their second batch of Nix colour sensing devices:

My name is Matthew Sheridan and I am the founder of Nix Sensor. After a crazy successful launch on Kickstarter we are now collecting funds for batch 2 of our award winning portable color sensor. Unlike many other products on Indiegogo and Kickstarter we have actually finished all design and development and are just seeking funds to pay for the next batch of devices. This takes the risk out of funding for you and will also drastically decrease the time needed to get this wonderful product into your hands. As this is still only the second batch of devices we will be raising funds at a huge discount (up to 50%) off the retail price. This is our way of saying thanks to our early adopters.

You can check out the campaign here, and watch the new Nix Sensor explainer video below:



FundHamOnt launches

Originally posted on


CrowdfundingWe thought that as we launched our new site, just a couple of days ago, that we’d put the same blog post about that launch up here on our for our readers to look over and see if the idea works for them too!

So…without further ado, here’s our launch notice…

After much insight over the years on how a new website gathers momentum when it comes to launch time, I know that the normal methods will not work for our own FundHamOnt site, not in the least…and that’s not a concern…

In fact, what we’re trying to do is to “soft launch” and for the most part we’re right on target. Consider what we’ve done and the rationale behind same…

We did not ask a for a single “prompted” Campaign – we felt (and still do) that for a site like this one it has to speak to our HamOnt citizens on it’s own and therefore must be as “un-prompted and real” as can be. From day one!

We have a local list of over 1000 Hamilton citizens we know personally who are involved in either a business, our startup community, our various mentoring groups, our post-secondary institutions, our local and regional media – reporters, editors, videographers, copy editors and yes friends and family too. In thinking about the real “who” to contact with the launch news, we drilled down on what we figured were the top 100 locally of same…so those folks got the site Launch Announcement you can see here if you’d like.

We also of course have fielded many “congrats” and “kudos” emails from many who were on that list – so thank you one and all…

We also have had some media attention (we’re waiting for the story in the next few days!) about what it is we’re attempting here with FundHamOnt and our own local business community – and that’s great.

Have we attracted any real live new Campaign Creators? Yes, and that’s an issue…in that we got 4 contacts with one of same entereing a brand new Campaign on the site – but there was a problem with these 4 “eager to get started” entrepreneurs….they were not from our own Hamilton area. All 4 were from the US with the “eagerest” of them being from Buffalo and while I did empathize with his startup needs….in all good conscience, we can’t get to any marketplace that is not HamOnt based – at least to start!

We turnd down those four and interestingly they were all American….hmm…is there a lesson there I wonder – but back to our own HamOnt community.

We’re up….we’re live…and yes, we’re looking for HamOnt businesses who need some seed money.

Got a new cupcake bakery opening up on James St North and need funds? Pick us. Got a software app for the iStore and need some capital to add an Android version too? Pick us. Need a new kiln for your pottery business or want to finance a trip to Montreal for an art conference? We can help.


No matter what the need, if you’re a Hamilton based business or citizen looking for crowdfunding….we’d love to help!


StartupBus North America 2014 Competition

Editor’s note: I was forwarded the following by Paul Vlahov (@PaulVlahov) who is interested in getting the word out to Hamilton-area startups.


StartupBus-Logo-Grey-CMYKStartupBus Canada is rolling towards Austin, TX in March, and we’re looking for some extreme Canadians to represent the Great White North.


If you already know what StartupBus is, apply at and tell us why you’d be an awesome part of this global community.


If you don’t know what StartupBus is, read on.


What is StartupBus?

StartupBus is an exercise in time, resource, and comfort-constrained creativity – it’s a hackathon on a bus moving at 100km/hour for 3 days across the continent. It pushes people past their limits, and finds greatness on the other side.


Why Do It?

It’s a life changing trip that has seen people step off the bus and into incubators, new jobs, a new startup, or just a new way of looking at life. The competition a shared experience that has brought together a community of truly amazing people in countries around the world. StartupBus represents a network of amazing entrepreneurs, investors, journalists, and builders that is genuine and celebrates the do-ers in life. Also, a cross-country hackathon road trip makes for an epic story.


How Do I Apply?

Tell us why you’re awesome and what you bring to the community. The bus is stacked with do-ers (mostly coders and designers who can implement) but if you bring something unique, then we want you. In the past, we’ve had lawyers, environmental policy wonks, students, and retirees who all brought something special and make the community stronger for it.


When Do We Leave?

StartupBus rolls from March 2 to March 6, 2014 and ultimately lands in Austin, TX in time for the biggest tech conference in the U.S. From there, you get yourself back however and whenever you want.


I want more information!

Visit for more information on the competition or email with questions.


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